What Are the Barriers to IoT Adoption?

Factory Io T

By: R. Scott Raynovich

You've heard all the great stories about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its impending growth. But is it living up to the hype? We know there are still many challenges in IoT connectivity and cybersecurity that are holding back the growth to achieve expectations. 

A recent survey by Informa's IoT World conference confirms that IoT has many challenges holding back growth. They asked 100 IoT decision makers -- including leaders across industries such as retail, supply chain/logistics, oil & gas/energy, construction, telecoms, agriculture, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, ecommerce, travel, and government -- what they thought about IoT. Survey participants named many challenges and one of the striking discoveries of the survey is that only half of the international companies surveyed even had an IoT strategy. 

The overall results paint a picture of an IoT technology opportunity that has yet to reach its full potential, with scaleability, expertise, and security challenges holding back implementations. 

IoT's Integration Challenges 

Let's start with where IoT is today and some of the challenges that are frustrating managers. 

Nearly half (46.39%) of respondents say their company can handle up to 1,000 devices. A total of 27.84% can accommodate fewer than 100 devices. On the other end of the spectrum, 30.93% are confident that their company could handle 100,000 or more devices.

The numbers show that there are challenges to reaching scale for IoT. If you think about IoT and compare it to legacy information technology (IT), it has much more complexity. Devices are smaller, cheaper, and have many different operating systems, making connectivity challenging. Then there are issues such as integration, management headaches, and, of course, security. 

According to the survey, the top challenges companies face in scaling IoT operations include:

• Dealing with “legacy” devices and software (53.06%)
• The need for highly specialized and custom solutions (45.92%)
• Managing which departments will be responsible for IoT-related sensors, gateways, networking equipment, analytics, hardware and software, etc. (37.37%)

Overall project management is a challenge. Nearly half of the executives surveyed (46.94%) stated that implementation problems plagued their IoT solution projects, while an additional 12.24% singled out the lack of the support for a production-quality deployment as a key hurdle. 

Perhaps more concerning is that IT managers do not seem to be confident in the IoT connectivity and security challenges: 

• 48.98% are not sure or not confident that their organization could integrate connectivity management across any type of environment
• 39.79% are not sure or not confident that their organization could connect their IoT ecosystem to disparate networks
• 36.73% are not sure or not confident that their organization could secure and protect all data within their IoT ecosystem 

The Hope for IoT

It's not all bad news. There's some hope from the survey in that 72.16% of respondents say security is incorporated into the design and embedded into the product life cycle of the devices used. Furthermore, 61.86% are either developing an IoT security policy or enforcing one.

Two-thirds of respondents believe they are staying up-to-date on security fixes and patches. On the other hand, more than half (57.6%) of organizations aren’t training their IT staff on the latest IoT security mechanisms. In addition, half of the respondents are not maintaining an inventory of connected devices and 43.4% are not conducting vulnerability testing to identify where the weak points are in the network and working to shut them down.

Overall, the survey describes a world of IoT that is still on the fringe of IT culture, if not "bleeding edge." The complexity and challenges of integrating a vast world of devices into the IT mix appears to have flummoxed the bulk of enterprises.